IT IS a fact of life that we often don’t appreciate something until we’ve lost it. Good reason, then, for supporting the enthusiasm of The Two Rivers Theatre Company who last week presented zippy performances of Lloyd and Croft’s ’Allo ’Allo in the newly-refurbished town hall. What does it take to entice an audience in Hawick for something of quality and aspiration by her own people? No matter; those who did make the effort to attend were richly rewarded in an evening of jollity and wry humour.
The dramatic setting is, of course, familiar to many through the success of the television series of episodes of the same name. Set in France during the Second World War, the play is a spoof on what, at the time, was a very grim situation for an occupied country, but it is this very grimness which, bizarrely, has inspired such humour through human shortcomings to beget comedy.
From his first appearance on stage (and he was pretty well on stage all the time), Peter Robertson was the yardstick of excellence on which this production thrived. Playing Rene, the hapless, philandering, comedic cafe owner, he was the fulcrum for all the interaction which elicited sterling performances from Shelagh Duncan as his unfortunate wife Edith and his two waitress ‘bits on the side’, played with exquisite timing by Rachel Inglis and Frances Goldie.
The play is brimful not only of characters, but caricatures - the leather-coated Gestapo agent Herr Flick and the archetypal Arian blonde in uniform, Helga, played with wicked artfulness by Derek Calder and Karen McKenna. Then there is the almost operatic Captain Bertorelli of the Italian army – a posturing, pompous buffoon – given full exposure by Fran Barker. Kevin Sykes definitely found his comfort zone in a hilarious portrayal of Lieutenant Gruber – the very antithesis of his superior officer General Von Schmelling – a caricature of Nazi arrogance, again deftly played to the acme of ridicule by Robert Goldie.
There were so many memorable and convincing cameos created in this production – Iain Scott as the tongue-tied, mispronouncing gendarme; Billy Jardine’s bumbling Le Clerc; and Janie Mallin as Michelle of the Resistance.
A special word of appreciation for Graham Ford who, at extremely short notice, stepped in, following the withdrawal of Jim Arbon, to the role of Colonel Von Strom, learning words with a determination which enabled him to make an entirely worthy contribution to this production in the true spirit of ‘the show must go on’ – and it did.
Supporting cast members were Dougie Mallin, Daniel Mallin, Pat Adam, Moira Boyd, Anne Clark, Ellen Halliday, Sandra Oliver, Alison Seeley and Jim Wallace. The production was coordinated by Christine Lyon, who should be congratulated on carrying forth the torch lit by Jean Wintrope. Such productions make community, and that’s what Hawick is about. A final word of thanks to the small army who work tirelessly behind the scenes – scene shifters, lightsmen, sound controllers, hairdressers, make-up artists, dressers and front-of-house attendants – all important in a team effort. Let’s make sure we keep TheTwo Rivers!– IS